The City of Philadelphia has a problem with police brutality. In Philadelphia, violence against the black community happens at a higher rate than against other communities. Even though the city of Philadelphia is home to a much smaller population than New York City, it experiences disproportionately more police shootings.
Philadelphia Police Brutality Attorneys
If you have suffered injuries due to police brutality in Philadelphia, the attorneys at Abramson & Denenberg, P.C. can help. Philadelphia police officers have a history of using their authority to abuse the rights of civilians, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Attorney Alan Denenberg is an experienced trial attorney who knows how to fight for his clients’ rights to compensation for injuries sustained due to police brutality. Contact our law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.
What Constitutes Police Brutality in Philadelphia?
A common type of police brutality happens when police officers use excessive force, make an illegal arrest, or falsely imprison a suspect. If police officers used excessive force when arresting you, they violated your Constitutional rights. The types of excessive force can vary. Examples of police brutality include the following:
- A police officer used a weapon against a suspect unnecessarily
- A police officer beat a suspect unreasonably
- A police officer used unnecessary force when placing the suspect in handcuffs or into the police vehicle
- A police officer used unnecessary deadly force against a suspect
- A police officer beats or otherwise abuses a jail inmate unnecessarily
The Philadelphia Police Department Has a Police Brutality Problem
In early September 2019, a Philadelphia police officer shot a man who was holding a box cutter. Video footage shows police surrounding the suspect as he held a box cutter in his hand and backed up. The police demanded that he drop the box cutter several times. He continued forward, and a police officer shot him.
Protestors temporarily blocked an intersection in North Philadelphia in response to the shooting. This incident is an example of a situation of probable police brutality. Instead of shooting the suspect, the police officer could have used less lethal force. Unfortunately, incidents of police brutality are not uncommon in Philadelphia.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice, police violence affects Philadelphia’s black community disproportionately. Philadelphia police officers are six times more likely to kill suspects than NYPD police officers. The investigation revealed that Philadelphia police officers used deadly force nearly 400 times between 2007 and 2013.
In 60% of the lethal force incidents, the police officers were white, and 81% of the suspects were black. When officers shot an unarmed suspect, the officer mistook a non-weapon for a gun in half of the instances. Additionally, suspects who were black were the most likely to be shot due to the police officer misidentifying an object. Finally, the number of suspects who were unarmed during officer shootings tripped from 2007 to 2013 in Philadelphia.
Why is Police Brutality Unconstitutional?
If the suspect actively fought the police officers, the officers can use reasonable force to subdue the suspect. If the officers believed they were under the threat of violent force, they could legally use deadly force in self-defense. If an officer’s use of force rises above the force necessary to make the arrest or subdue the suspect, the officer violated the rights of the suspect. The unreasonable use of force constitutes police brutality.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. This provision includes protection from the use of unreasonable force by police officers. Drawing the line between the use of reasonable and unreasonable use of force can be challenging. Courts will consider whether the suspect resisted arrest and any injuries he or she sustained during the arrest process.
When can a Philadelphia Police Officer Use Deadly Force Against a Suspect?
The worst kind of police brutality happens when police officers kill a suspect unnecessarily. Police officers may only use deadly force when one or both of the following circumstances happen:
- The police officer was at risk of death or significant bodily injury, or
- The police officer thought the suspect was a severe threat to the public and the suspect tried to flee the police
If a suspect slaps a police officer in his or her face, the police officer cannot use deadly force against the suspect. However, if the suspect points a gun at the police officer and refuses to put the gun down, a police officer will likely be justified in using deadly force.
Similarly, if a suspect stole food from a gas station and began to flee arrest, a police officer is not justified in using deadly force. If the suspect killed someone or several people, had a loaded weapon, and began to flee the scene, the officer might be justified in using deadly force.
Racism, Violent Social Media Posts, and Police Brutality in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Police Department recently pulled 72 officers off the streets. The Plain View Project discovered that these officers made thousands of violent and racists posts on their social media accounts. The results of the project implicated over 300 Philadelphia police officers. Some of the officers commented that arrested suspects “should have more lumps on his head” or “should be dead.”
It is difficult to imagine that an online culture that promotes violent comments and police brutality does not relate. Of Philadelphia’s 328 active-duty police officers, researchers discovered 3,100 offensive or possibly offensive social media posts. Some are arguing that the officers who engaged in violent and racist comments should have their employment terminated. As of July 2019, the police department 13 officers will face suspension for 30 days with the intent to end their positions.
Many Philadelphia Police Officers Receive No Punishment for Police Brutality
The Department of Justice report on Philadelphia police brutality found that a majority of officers suffered no consequences for using excessive force. 73% of police officers found to have violated department policy in a shooting incident did not receive termination or even suspension.
Shooting an unarmed civilian is the worst form of police brutality in Philadelphia. Nonetheless, a majority of police officers who are found to have used excessive lethal force receive no consequences. At Abramson & Denenberg, P.C., we have helped many police brutality victims receive compensation. Contact our police brutality personal injury attorneys today to schedule your initial consultation.